The federal government has an important role to play in identifying and supporting areas of research that may help to relieve tightness in the IT labor market in the long term. Some of these areas of research include:
Work organization, situated learning, and productivity. By and large, little is known about the kinds of work organization that lead to increased learning and greater productivity among IT workers. In particular, the best approaches to organizing work and training workers who develop or create IT products or applications-based services (Category 1 work, as described in Chapter 2) are not yet clear. It is unlikely that one type of work organization is inevitably superior to others under all circumstances, so a key component of this research would be to identify the circumstances under which one type of organization is better than another. Further, such research should aim at providing managers and corporate executives with actionable guidelines to help them make appropriate decisions before projects are started.
Assessment tools for IT jobs. As noted in Chapter 6, one of the impediments to the use of structured assessment methods in IT is that their administration is resource-intensive. This is a particularly serious issue for undertaking initial screening. One possibility is to explore the notion of an online assessment tool that can be used to identify highly skilled individuals in a nondiscriminatory manner.
Software engineering.12 A better understanding of the “ilities” (e.g., flexibility, security, reliability, manageability, quality of service, modifiability, and scalability) and how to incorporate them into large systems would be useful in identifying bottlenecks in the software development process. Likewise, software reuse is poorly understood, with outstanding issues about where and under what circumstances software reuse is beneficial in software development, what the benefits are, and how software reuse could be implemented on a wide scale to make a significant improvement in software development productivity.
Better integration of the above areas (work organization, assessment, and software engineering). Because many IT managers were once IT workers themselves, it is important to understand how IT workers can develop key managerial skills. A better understanding of career paths from IT worker to IT manager—and of how the individuals successful in such
For example, a recent NRC report (Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council. 2000. Making IT Better: Expanding Information Technology Research to Meet Society's Needs. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press) makes recommendations for increased fundamental research on improving productivity in the design and implementation of IT systems.